Charlotte Day Wilson’s debut ‘CDW’ EP, released last year, is immediately recognisable in its down tempo intensity. Each track commands the listener’s attention, not through a forceful chorus or infectious hook but through performing the paradox of insistence through subtlety, of striking delicacy. From the calming sustained chords of opener ‘On Your Own’, where Charlotte’s soft voice floats through the building atmospheric reverberations, to the minimal slow-jam intensity of ‘Work’, and empowering chorus crescendo of ‘Find You’, the six tracks of ‘CDW’ establish a talent defiantly resistant of generic and commercial restrictions.
“Down-tempo music comes very naturally to me”, she states, “I think it's because I'm an anxious person, so down-tempo music helps me relax. When I'm in my sanctuary, trying to find refuge in music, the last thing I want to do is listen to something really high bpm for hours”.
Charlotte’s own music cultivates this sense of sanctuary and imagined beauty when listening, and her controlled pacing also applies to her workflow. Being a singer-songwriter, as well as a producer, her studio process is often organic, so that “the song can develop symbiotically with the production”, she explains. Wilson’s independence as an artist also means that she doesn’t have to follow the conventional recording-touring schedule, allowing for her newer songs to mature on their own: “I'm lucky enough that I haven't signed a deal yet”, she states, “so I don't have a label breathing down my neck to tell me to get something finished. I can allow myself to take some time”.
Before the release of ‘CDW’, the vocalist gained her first taste of popular recognition by featuring on her fellow Toronto-natives, BADBADNOTGOOD’s last album ‘IV’, penning the track ‘In Your Eyes’. Having attended high school with the band’s drummer, Wilson cites the four-piece as a major influence on her approach to songwriting, along with soul and folk greats like James Blake, Joni Mitchell and D’Angelo. The burgeoning R&B and jazz scene in Toronto has clearly been an influence on Wilson coming up around not only BADBADNOTGOOD but also River Tiber, Daniel Caesar and Young Clancy. She is careful not to get pigeon-holed though, stating, “I'm trying to distance myself from the R&B association that's coming out of the city because although I love R&B and a lot of the stuff I write is R&B, we get grouped into one identity and obviously that's not the case. We're all out here doing out own thing”.
Charlotte certainly is doing her own thing, and one that isn’t only restricted to her music. Her video for single ‘Work’, released the day after the Women’s March in January, gained attention for its social commentary and empowering message of female unity. A one-shot scene, the video depicts a local community of hetero, transgender and gender-queer women, all travelling down an escalator with Wilson appearing fleetingly, singing her lyrics.
She explains that the video was inspired by her most recent trip to London and standing in Angel tube station recording commuters coming down its escalator. “I kept looking back at the video”, Wilson says, “and thought it was amazing, just the peoples' expressions, it was a collage of different kinds of people with some looking at the camera and being turned off by the fact that I was filming them!”. When it came to shooting for ‘Work’, Wilson found the sense of community amongst women inspiring: “the afternoon we spent together was very empowering just by being in the presence of all these women”.
This political aspect of her work isn’t integral but Wilson admits that “being a queer woman and singing about the love that I have for other women is inherently political in some way, so I'd like to share positive messages through my music”. Such positivity is palpable in the energy of her live shows, bolstering the slow burning force of her record with a grandiosity and command of the space. Having recently sold out her first ever headline shows in the UK, Wilson is heading home for a string of live performances before returning to Europe later in the year. She’s also working on new music but taking her time to “do some soul-searching and not forcing or rushing anything”.
Ultimately, she explains, “I just want to create beautiful music, I like finding beauty in soundscapes and that's what I'm trying to do”.
Words: Ammar Kalia
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